India head coach Ravi Shastri has often admitted how he values the concept in limited-overs cricket. None can understand its importance better than him.
In 1985, Shastri was part of the experiment. The all-rounder, who began his career at No. 8, shone as an opener in the World Series in Australia and helped India become the Champion of Champions’.
When talking about Rahul Dravid’s greatness, it’s hard to forget the role he played as a wicketkeeper-batsman under Sourav Ganguly’s leadership.
India, as a country and as a cricket team, loves horses for courses. It might have taken this team management a bit of time but it’s finally found a solution to what turned out to be a big area of concern post the World Cup — wicketkeeping in limited-overs.
Rishabh Pant got the backing of the team after MS Dhoni decided to take the long sabbatical from international cricket. Pant had big boots to fill and he struggled to live up to the expectations.
From being called the next big thing of Indian cricket to being told that he is not a natural keeper, Pant’s fortunes swung drastically over the last 7 months. A poor run with the bat coupled with problems behind the wicket for Pant forced the team management to look elsewhere.
While Sanju Samson was in the reckoning, the team management decided not to look far away but in the dressing room.
KL Rahul was handed the gloves when Pant suffered a concussion injury during an ODI series at home against Australia earlier this year. The recently-concluded T20I series against New Zealand was KL Rahul’s 1st full-time assignment as a wicketkeeper in limited-overs.
As he mentioned, every day he woke up, a new challenge was thrown at him and KL Rahul aced most if not all of them.
From donning the opener’s role again to doing a neat job behind the wickets, KL Rahul certainly repaid the team management’s faith in him.
KL Rahul ended the New Zealand T20Is 224 runs — a record for most runs scored in a bilateral T20I series. He was quick with his stumpings, took the catches with confidence and even helped the captain with DRS calls.
When he was entrusted with the role of leading the side during New Zealand’s chase in the 5th T20I, Rahul didn’t disappoint there either.
More importantly, there were no Dhoni Dhoni’ chants and captain Virat Kohli did not have to defend his wicketkeeper batsman by voicing out against the crowd.
Simply put, KL Rahul’s emergence as the horses-for-courses wicketkeeper has helped himself and the others focus on their roles.
With Rahul doubling up as the wicketkeeper, India were able to be flexible with their combination.
The added responsibility seemed to have pushed Rahul to be better at what he did. And he certainly did so.
Throughout the 5-match series, India played 2 all-rounders in the playing XI. With no Rishabh Pant in the team, Manish Pandey was given the finisher’s role and he aced it just like his Karnataka teammate.
As pointed out by himself, Rahul may be new to wicketkeeping at the international level but he has done it umpteen times for Karnataka and his Indian Premier League side Kings XI Punjab.
Captain Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri love options. They definitely love this new flexibility. Even when they had an option to field Rishabh Pant in the dead rubbers in Wellington and Mount Maunganui, he was warming the benches.
It will not be surprising if KL Rahul walks out as the wicketkeeper at this year’s T20 World Cup. But what if MS Dhoni decides to return?
Ravi Shastri and the senior selection committee have made it clear that a call will be taken on MS Dhoni’s future after IPL 2020.
Who will take the call? Will it be Dhoni himself? What if he has more-than-a-decent IPL for Chennai Super Kings? Can the team management say no to Dhoni?